The waiting room was heaving, but patients were still being seen well within four hours.
As part of our Under Pressure Week, today The News takes a look at walk-in centres.
We visited St Mary’s Treatment Centre, in Milton Road, Portsmouth, on a busy Friday night.
The site, which is run by Care UK and is nurse-led, sees around 41,000 patients each year.
And although it looked like there were plenty of people waiting, managers say the centre can still take on many more patients.
The building is both a walk-in centre and minor injuries unit – this means as well as aches, pains, and illness, people can walk in with minor wounds and possible fractures.
Penny Daniels is director of the centre.
She said: ‘This has always been a busy site, but we can still be busier.
‘We definitely have capacity to see more people, and would encourage more patients to come here.
‘We would encourage patients to come as we have some good stuff going on here.’
The centre has 10 cubicles in which to see patients – these include two cubicles dedicated to children and one for adolescents.
There is also a see-and-treat room, and a priority treatment room, which has resuscitation equipment.
Around two-thirds of the patients who come in are there because of an injury, while the rest are seen for illness.
And a quarter of all those seen are children.
Alongside treatment rooms, the nurses are able to prescribe some medicines, and there is also a fracture clinic, and eye unit.
‘We have the same targets as an emergency department in a hospital,’ added Ms Daniels.
‘We need to see, treat, transfer or discharge a patient within four hours.
‘We hardly breach the four-hour target, and on the odd occasion we do, it’s because we have been waiting for an ambulance.
‘We often ring the A&E department at Queen Alexandra Hospital, and let them know we have space to see more people if they want to come over.
‘Here you are more likely to be seen in four hours.’
Of the 42,562 people who attended the centre, only 683 needed to be transferred to A&E.
Ms Daniels added: ‘We have seen more patients because they are sent to us via NHS 111.
‘But we can still take more in – we contacted them to make sure we were added as the options in their triage tools.’
And living up to the service it provides, there were a range of different reasons why people had attended.
Ricky Long, 32, of Warwick Crescent, Southsea, came in because of an awkward sneeze.
He said: ‘It sounds a bit daft, but I sneezed in the afternoon, and immediately felt something pull in my neck.
‘After a while I was struggling to swallow, and my throat was hurting a lot, so I decided to come to the walk-in centre.
‘I saw a nurse, and she checked my throat for me.
‘I really wanted to make sure it wasn’t anything serious.’
Ricky was told he had most likely stretched his muscles, making it difficult for him to swallow.
There was no obvious signs of damage to his voice box or oesophagus, and he was told to take painkillers.
‘As it was getting worse, I wanted to get a second opinion,’ he said.
‘As I live on Portsea island, it was closer for me to come here.
‘I didn’t think I needed A&E treatment, and I wouldn’t have thought about going to see a pharmacy.
‘I hadn’t heard of NHS 111 either.
‘I was happy with how quickly I was seen here – I got in at 5.50pm, and was seen by 7pm.’
And young Ruby James, four, was brought in by her mother Laura Simpson, 23, after her hand was bitten by the family dog.
Laura, of Wallace Road, North End, said: ‘Ruby was putting something in the bin, when the dog bit her hand.
‘She let out a mighty scream and was very upset.
‘I washed her hand under the tap and saw she had a cut across her hand.
‘I was worried there could be an infection, so decided to bring her to the walk-in centre.
‘The bite wasn’t big, but obviously I wanted to make sure it was all okay.’
Laura, a sales assistant, had arrived at 6.15pm – and Ruby was seen within 10 minutes.
‘I was happy with the treatment, they checked her wound and plastered her up,’ said Laura.
A 34-year-old woman from Southsea also attended, after she had been hit by a chair.
Her arm had become bruised, but an X-ray found there was no fracture, and she was told she should keep her arm elevated.
WHEN TO USE THESE CENTRES
WALK-IN centres and minor injuries units are there for problems that may need urgent care, but aren’t life threatening.
In Portsmouth, the walk-in centres in Milton Road, and Guildhall Walk, are both run by Care UK.
The minor injuries unit in Gosport War Memorial Hospital, is run by Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust.
And the walk-in centre in Petersfield is run by Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust.
These units are set up to help take pressure off accident and emergency departments.
They are open later than GP practices, so people can go there when primary care is closed.
They offer help on a range of problems, including:
· infections and rashes
· blood pressure checks
· fractures and lacerations
· emergency contraception and advice
· stomach aches
· vomiting and diarrhoea
· insect and animal bites
· stitches (sutures)
· dressing care
· minor cuts and bruises
· minor burns and strains
· Stop smoking support
They are not designed for treating long-term conditions or immediately life-threatening problems.
THERE are four walk-centres that serve south-east Hampshire. Each have slightly different opening hours, depending on the time of the year. Below is the name of the centre, address, contact number, and opening times:
· St Mary’s walk-in centre and minor injuries unit, Milton Road, Portsmouth; call 0333 200 1822; open Monday to Friday, from 7.30am to 10pm (last patient in at 9.30pm; weekends and Bank Holidays 8am to 10pm (last patient in at 9.30pm).
· Guildhall Walk Healthcare Centre, Guildhall Walk, Portsmouth; call (023) 9275 1006; open seven days a week from 8am to 8pm.
· Minor Injuries Unit, Gosport War Memorial Hospital, Bury Road, Gosport; call (023) 9279 4753 or (023) 9279 4754; open every day from 8am to 9pm.
· Petersfield Hospital Minor Injuries Unit, Petersfield Hospital, Swan Street; call 01730 263221; open every day from 8am to 6pm (last patient in at 5.45pm).